Indian history is an important section of both the Civil Services Preliminary Exam and the Main Examination. A significant portion of the overall questions in General Studies Paper I for the UPSC Civil Services Exam comes from Indian history. Modern History has the highest weightage in the total number of questions asked, making it the most important section within Indian history.

One of the most important events in Modern History, according to historians, is the Battle of Plassey, which was fought on 23 June 1757 in the Plassey region, West Bengal. The Battle of Plassey is termed as the ‘decisive event’ for the Britishers and a turning point in the history of India in favour of the Britishers. It established the British military and political dominance in Bengal and became the source of the ultimate rule of the British in India. In this article, the causes and effects of the Battle of Plassey are discussed. Also, the implications of the battle are given in brief.

Background of Battle of Plassey

The East India Company, led by Robert Clive, fought the Battle of Plassey against the Nawab of Bengal (Siraj-Ud-Daulah) and his French Troop. The conflict took place during the late era of the Mughal Empire (called the Later Mughal Period). The Mughal emperor Alamgir II ruled the empire during the time of the Battle of Plassey. The sequence of events which led to the battle are :

  • Siraj-Ud-Daulah succeeded his grandfather Alivardi Khan to become the Nawab of Bengal. After coming to power, he realised that the British exploited the commercial privileges to exclude native traders while also evading taxes owed to the Nawab of Bengal.
  • Siraj-Ud-Daulah was concerned about the British traders abusing their commercial privileges as Nawab’s finances suffered as a result of the pervasive abuse of trade privileges.
  • Nawab of Bengal was also apprehensive about the increasing power of the British, particularly after the British victory in the Carnatic wars.
  • Due to the aforementioned concerns, the Nawab of Bengal ordered the English to halt the expansion of their fortifications. Despite the orders, the Britishers fortified Fort Williams without the permission of Nawab.
  • To stop the fortification, Nawab marched to Fort Williams. On June 20, 1757, shortly after Fort William’s capitulation. Siraj imprisoned 146 British captives in a tiny cell in Calcutta, where 123 died of asphyxia. It is well-known as the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta.’
  • This event brought the British antagonism to the surface. Following the British’s terrible defeat at the hands of the Nawab of Bengal, a large force led by Robert Clive was dispatched from Madras to depose the Nawab and reinforce the British position in Bengal.
  • The discontented followers of the Nawab, such as Mir Jafar and other Bengali generals, were bribed to forge an alliance with the British. Mir Jafar, kin of Siraj was promised the throne in return for supporting the British.
  • On June 23, 1757, the Battle of Plassey was fought at Palashi on the banks of the Bhagirathi River near Calcutta.

Causes of Battle of Plassey

The following were the main reasons for the Battle of Plassey:

  • Nonpayment of tax and duty by British East India Company employees.
  • The widespread abuse of the Nawab of Bengal’s trading rights was granted to the British.
  • Misleading the Nawab on various fronts by the British.
  • Fortification of Calcutta by the British without the Nawab’s permission.
  • Asylum to Nawab’s Enemy Krishna Das by the Britishers.

The conspiracy of Robert Clive and the subsequent betrayal by Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh and others became the reason for the defeat of Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-daula in the Battle of Plassey.

Implications of Battle of Plassey

The British East India Company’s victory in the Battle of Plassey is seen as a watershed moment in Indian history. The Battle of Plassey exposed Bengal’s deeply corrupt political environment.

  • Mir Jafar, who became ruler after Siraj-Ud-Daullah, was reduced to the status of “puppet ruler,” and control was transferred to the British. The Battle of Plassey marked the start of their empire.
  • The British reaped the tax gains faced little competition from foreign merchants, and began to utilise Bengal earnings to safeguard their military and commerce interests.
  • Mir Jafar and the subsequent rulers presented the Company with 24 Parganas and one crore rupees, as well as valuable Siraj gifts to the English officers, including Clive.
  • Bengal’s economy was entirely destroyed as a result of the massive draining of its resources. It depleted the state exchequer.
  • This is referred to as the Plassey Plunder. With Bengal’s wealth, the British established their commercial and political dominance.

After the Battle of Plassey, there were various other battles fought, which are also important for all the aspiring IAS Officer, as a question can be asked anytime from these topics in the Civil Services Exam. Apart from the battles, one should also be aware of the chronology of the most important movements and missions led by the British to garner Indian support and expand their administration.

A wise combination of hard effort and the appropriate plan will make history preparation easier for all the aspirants. Along with Modern History, aspirants should also pay attention to Ancient History, Mediaeval History and Art & Culture to perform well in the subject.